MONTANA LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD – On November 12th, the Milton Ranch was awarded the inaugural Montana Leopold Conservation Award. Bill and Dana Milton of Roundup, Montana received the award, which is given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. The award honors agricultural landowners dedicated to land ethics.
The Milton’s purchased the ranch in 1978, and through the years began practicing conservation. Now, along with other local groups and area, residents are passionate about improving owned and leased properties. Together they performed rangeland vegetation evaluations, soil testing and bird surveys. Milton Ranch has also reduced their herd size during times of drought. Preserving vegetation and soil as well as adding new water tanks and pipeline. They installed escape ramps in water tanks so no wildlife becomes trapped.
Bill once summed up his conservation goals for a ranch management consultant in writing:
“Grasslands with more litter, more diverse plants, increasing organic matter, and more leaves to harvest the suns energy. Stable water table. Little or no soil erosion. Invasive weeds controlled or well managed (eaten). Habitat that optimizes local wildlife populations. A simple and well maintained fence and water infrastructure.”
The Miltons also received the Montana Land Reliance Conservation Award in 1993. They run Angus cattle on sagebrush plains and have also run sheep in the past.
Bill studied conservation courses under Starker Leopold, the son of Aldo Leopold, a wildlife biologist and professor at UC Berkeley. They work toward returning native grass to the land by intensely grazing for a short period of time. Allowing native plants to go to seed. They have advocated for holistic grazing techniques on federal lands.
In Leopold’s 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac”, he called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they owned and managed.
“When I read it in college in my twenties, it was kind of like, wow, this is the kind of laying down the groundwork of how we need to relate to taking care of our place,” Milton recalled.
Congratulations to the Milton ranch!